For as many design tweaks as we’ve seen the standard computer mouse take over the years – from the wheel to extra thumb buttons to bottom-mounted charging ports (c’mon, Apple!) — the basic design of the mainstream mouse isn’t all that different from what it was back when the kids in Stranger Things would’ve been running around Indiana back in 1983. Nearly 40 years later, we’re still using pucks with two big buttons.
But like the QWERTY keyboard layout, that form factor is still around mostly because it’s been around, despite a clear need to reimagine it. With the advent of the computer has come a rise in carpal tunnel stress as people strain their hands for longer periods. If I’m working and playing a PC game, it’s not unreasonable to say I’m spending 12-plus hours in front of a computer some days. So maybe it’s time to rethink the design of some of this hardware. Instead of evolving my body to fit my computer, I should be molding my computer to fit my body.
That’s where Evoluent’s vertical mouse comes in. The vertical mouse has been around for years, but it seems like it’s only recently that it’s been catching on. Evoluent contacted me to put one in my hands, and I’ve been playing with it for the last few weeks to see how it feels to use on a day to day basis.
A mouse for (almost) every hand
The standard mouse design is sort of a lump on your desk, requiring you to twist your wrist to use it. Evoluent’s mouse is a “handshake” grip mouse, so you can simply set your hand on your desk and be mousing without having to twist your wrist.
Digging into the Evoluent software, it started to become apparent to me how little I – a guy with two mostly-working hands with all my fingers intact – had considered how tough a regular mouse could be to use for someone with bigger hand problems than I have. I injured both of my thumbs boxing and, while they work fine, I tend to get fatigued faster than I’d like. Not only does this interfere with my Monster Hunter World addiction over on my PlayStation 4, it makes long sessions at the computer pretty tough with a regular mouse.
The team at Evoluent seems to take just about every possible hand-related condition into account in its software. If you can hold this mouse, you can make it work for you.
All six of the mouse buttons – three finger buttons, two thumb buttons, and the wheel – can be customized with a huge variety of functions, from regular clicking to copying and pasting, launching applications, double-clicking, and more. The configuration can even be customized on an application-by-application basis.
A click-lock function will let you simulate holding down a button even after you’ve released it if your muscles won’t let you hold the button down for long, and auto-click will let you automatically click your mouse just by holding it in place for a specified amount of time. There’s even a tab devoted to reminding you take breaks, you workaholic. In a distinctly 90s design moment, you can even set this optional reminder to play a .WAV file of your choice when it’s time to get up and walk away from your computer. It makes me miss custom-animated cursors for a split second.
Getting used to it
Setting up Evoluent’s mouse is easy. The box includes the mouse itself and a tiny USB dongle that compares well to Logitech’s Unifying Receivers in size. The mouse itself takes an (included) AA battery that the company says will get you 3-5 months of use before you have to replace it. There’s no cord to worry about, but if you want to recharge the battery, that’s up to you to take care of with a third-party charger.
The mouse itself takes a bit more work. The mere act of un-twisting your wrist is a tough one to get used to. The Evoluent mouse has a much higher profile on the desktop than a regular mouse, and I knocked it off my desk a few times while getting acclimated. The weight of it feels weird, too. Instead of a puck, it’s a proper handful.
During my first few days of using the mouse, I definitely struggled a bit. Basic mousing wasn’t too different, but I found myself unintentionally moving the mouse when I went to click. Sometimes I accidentally clicked the bottom button, which is operated by fingers I’m not used to engaging when mousing.
Because of all this, it took a few days of mousing before I felt like I was using the mouse competently.
But now? Now it feels natural. It’s comfortable. This came into light especially when, after a couple weeks of exclusive use, I got out my Logitech G603 – one of my absolute favorite mice – to play a few rounds of DOOM.
Immediately, twisting my wrist to use the G603 felt strange. A little alien. When I’m working in an ideal posture, Evoluent’s mouse feels great, though I’ll admit that if I’m trying to mouse over my cat’s head or operate it from a slumped-back position, it’s just not very comfortable. The mouse doesn’t allow for any flexibility of position. You have to grip the mouse whole-handed while sitting relatively straight. Maybe that’s a good thing; bad posture at a computer is something we need to combat however we can.
This mouse don’t got game
A huge portion of the mice we’ve shown off here on TechnoBuffalo have been decidedly gaming mice. Some others have been work mice that, really, wouldn’t do too badly as gaming mice if you wanted to have them dual duty. And most gaming mice work fine when you need to buckle down and dive into some spreadsheets.
The Evoluent vertical mouse is one that I couldn’t imagine using for anything but work. It definitely has some gaming features, like a button for adjusting DPI, but it’s not built with low latency and high performance in mind. You could theoretically use it for gaming, but it’s not going to make the cut at a tournament level.
As a work mouse, though, it’s comfortable to use for long periods of time and I don’t feel like I’m compromising when i use it.
As a gamer, I think I would have a hard time giving up on my Logitech mice entirely. They’re light and responsive mice that are well-suited to fast-paced gaming, and the Evoluent can’t compete. But you don’t bring a tractor to a street race, either – it’s built for another purpose entirely, just as this mouse is. At $109 retail, Evoluent is asking for a fair investment, but with how much time you’ll end up mousing with this, it makes it absolutely worth the price. And if you look around somewhere like Amazon, you can probably find it for a few dollars cheaper.
Instead of picking one mouse over the other, I’ll likely end up with two mice on my desk: one for work, and one for play. And it’s clear to me that Evoluent’s mouse can get the job done.
DISCLAIMER: We received a review unit from the manufacturer for review purposes and spent a few weeks with it before writing this review.